Walter Geikie

Born: November 10, 1795
Died: August 1, 1837

Occupation: Fine art painter

Challenges overcome: Hearing Impairment

Successes, Achievements & Awards:

Walter Geikie was born in Charles Street, Edinburgh in 1795, and became a famous Scottish painter. Before Walter was two he was attacked by a dangerous ear disease termed a “nervous fever” at the time which caused him to be become deaf and dumb, as termed at the time. The illness caused permanent hearing loss. Walter was the son of a pious and intelligent father, Archibald Geikie, a perfumer.  Through the careful attention of his father he was enabled to obtain a good education he taught his bereaved boy the alphabet, so that he not only learned to read, but to understand what he read. Writing and arithmetic followed, in which Walter showed himself an apt scholar. When he had acquired the rudiments of education, it happened, fortunately for him, that Mr. Braidwood, the successful teacher of the deaf and dumb, was invited to Edinburgh, to open an institution there, and Geikie became one of his earliest pupils. In this new school the boy’s proficiency was so rapid that he was soon employed as a monitor.

At the age of fourteen he was sent to learn drawing by regular rule, under Mr. Patrick Gibson, and such was his progress, that in 1812 he was admitted a pupil of the Academy of Drawing, established for the encouragement of Scottish manufactures, where he had for his preceptor Mr. Graham, the teacher of Allan and Wilkie . He first exhibited his work in 1815, and was elected an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1831, and a fellow in 1834.

Before he had the advantage of the instruction of a teacher/master he had attained considerable proficiency in sketching both figures and landscapes from nature, While yet a child, he had been in the practice of cutting out representations of the objects that struck him on paper; afterwards he had attempted to portray them with chalk on floors and walls; and rising higher still in pictorial art, he at length took himself to the use of the pencil. He did not, however, satisfy himself, like other young sketchers, with merely copying the pictures of others: instead of this, he would be satisfied with nothing short of the original object; and therefore he often roamed about the suburbs of Edinburgh, or among the fields, transferring into his note-book whatever most pleased him. This was the form of language in which he found he could best express himself, and therefore it is not to be wondered at that he should cultivate it so carefully. He showed also that he was no mere common-place learner, for he was in the practice of writing down extracts of the passages that best pleased him in the authors whose works he perused. While he was storing his mind with knowledge, and qualifying himself, notwithstanding his deafness, for a life of usefulness, his path was determined.

After his death he was interred in the Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh. Owing to his want of feeling for colour, Walter Geikie was not a successful painter in oils, but he sketched in India ink with great truth and humour illustrating the scenes and characters of Scottish lower-class life in his native city. A series of etchings which exhibit very high excellence were published by him in 1829-1831 and a collection of eighty-one of these was republished posthumously in 1841, with a biographical introduction by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Bart.
Walter Geikie was buried in an unmarked grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh but a memorial was erected to his memory on the western boundary wall in 1996.

Challenges Overcome

Walter Geikie suffered a serious ear infection before his second birthday which left him deaf and dumb a term commonly used at the time to describe someone who could not hear and therefore had affected speech which would make it appear that the person affected had no intelligence and was treated as not capable of learning, developing intelligence, or becoming successful in anything. With the help of his intelligent father who took his parental role seriously Walter Geikie became an artist of considerable notoriety especially because Scotland had not managed to produce an artist who focused on Walter Geikie’s everyday subjects before who also introduced humour into some of his art work.

Disability Definitions

Hearing impairment/Deafness

Hearing impairment or hard of hearing or deafness refers to conditions in which individuals are fully or partially unable to detect or perceive at least some frequencies of sound which can typically be heard by most people. Hearing loss is caused by many factors, including: genetics, age, exposure to noise, illness, chemicals and physical trauma. Deafness is defined as a degree of impairment such that a person is unable to understand speech even in the presence of amplification. In profound deafness, even the loudest sounds produced by an audiometer (an instrument used to measure hearing by producing pure tone sounds through a range of frequencies) may not be detected. In total deafness, no sounds at all, regardless of amplification or method of production, are heard.

Hearing loss. (2015, May 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:42, May 20, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hearing_loss&oldid=662664415

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Information sources:

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Duncan Macmillan, ‘Geikie, Walter (1795–1837)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/10503, accessed 22 April 2015] – Please note that you will require library subscription or a library card to access the content on this site.

Walter Geikie. (2014, August 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:34, April 22, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Walter_Geikie&oldid=622394951

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